Jeff Adams Qualifies for Beijing — By Just .02 Seconds
Atlanta (June 26, 2008) In a meet he aptly called â€˜The Last Gasp,’ Jeff Adams posted times that met the qualification standards he needed to achieve in order to be nominated for the 1500m Paralympic wheelchair race by Athletics Canada. Adams had five days before the deadline to meet or beat the qualification times, otherwise, he would not have been able to compete for Canada at the Beijing Games later this year.
“It was totally the eleventh hour, but I was able to do an elite time and an â€˜A’ standard time, which puts me in great shape,”Adams said in a statement issued today. The first race of the night I went 3:00.27, which is the third fastest time in the world this year. We might have been a bit too enthusiastic, because on the next attempt, I was only able to go 3:03.98, which is only .02 seconds under what I needed to do.”
Several other wheelchair athletes assisted Adams in making the cut. Adams organized and sanctioned the meet himself, with the help of Scot Hollonbeck of Vie Sports Marketing. Ernst VanDyk of South Africa and Josh Cassidy, a fellow Canadian athlete, paced Adams as he attempted to qualify for the Paralympic Games.
“It was a really amazing night for a lot of reasons. Scot and I have had some epic battles over the years, the best one right here in Atlanta at the Paralympics in 1996, and we warmed up on this very track. To come back here and work together to try to get me on the team was really rewarding,” Adams said. “The fact that Ernst and Josh came down to help pace me really shows how the athletes are reacting to the stuff I’ve been going through over the last two years. For competitors of mine to help me makes an enormous statement about their character, and is an amazing comment about the way Paralympic athletes see competition. Neither Ernst or Josh wanted to try to win a medal without all of the best athletes there”.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport recently exonerated Adams on anti-doping allegations, after he fought for nearly two years to clear his name. He was reinstated on May 16th, leaving him only six weeks to qualify for Beijing. In contrast, other Canadian athletes have had two years to chalk up the results needed to make the country’s Paralympic team.
Adams won the 1500m at the US Paralympic Trials in Tempe, Arizona, which were also open to foreign athletes just 10 days ago. He will compete next at the Canadian Championships July 3-6th in Windsor, Ontario.
After two years away from competition, it’s heartening to see that Jeff Adams can come back and compete at the highest level. Best of luck to him in Beijing. I’d love to be there in the stands come September, cheering him on. Realistically, I’ll settle for watching his race on TV.
And Now for the Rest of the Story
Today’s editions of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune feature a story by Gina Kolata which talks about new research into the urine EPO test and it’s reliability. In a nutshell, Danish researchers working on a different (but related) project decided to see just how well a couple of WADA-accredited labs could detect the use of EPO by some volunteers. In this case, the volunteers were using EPO on a schedule established by the researchers. Urine samples were taken at regular intervals throughout the study, covering times when the voluteers were building up extra blood cells, maintaining, and then after stopping EPO use entirely.
The results of the WADA-accredited labs’ testing was less than comforting. In fact, the study shows that the labs’ test results did not agree on who was doping and when. And, it also showed at least one false positive — a person who tested positive, but who had not used EPO within the range of time that the test is supposed to be accurate (claimed to be three days by WADA-world, though I’ve heard it’s actually less).
Olivier Rabin, the medical director of WADA, stood up for the labs.
But Olivier Rabin, scientific director of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said his group had tested its labs, sending samples of urine from people who were taking EPO and from people who were not. In general, he said, the labs agreed. But Rabin added that when the agency sends samples to its labs, they are not sent anonymously — the lab knows the samples are from WADA.
The agency does not share data from the tests on its labs, so it was not possible to determine how the organization’s research compared with the latest study.
It’s pretty easy to understand how the labs would do well when WADA’s test samples came calling. In fact, it’s pretty simple. They know they’re being tested, so they’re on their best behavior. There’s a powerful incentive to get things right. On the other hand, the Danish researchers’ samples weren’t identified as to what they contained, so the labs had no idea that they were being evaluated on their performance.
The anti-doping tests came in for some criticism.
The findings in the latest study should be no surprise, said Charles Yesalis, a professor of sports science at Pennsylvania State University. For decades, he said, anti-doping authorities have claimed they have tests that work and for decades athletes have been taking drugs without getting caught.
The anti-doping authorities, he said, “remind me of little boys whistling in the graveyard.”
Hard to argue with that statement. There’s something missing from Kolata’s story, and it’s absence casts the story in a completely different light. Reading her piece, if you’re not familiar with anti-doping testing, you’d think, “Well, looks like they won’t be able to catch cheats using EPO. The test doesn’t work.” And it would be hard to blame someone for thinking that.
But there are other testing protocols that can detect the use of EPO (or other blood doping techniques). Those are the blood-based ON- and OFF-Model tests developed by Australian researchers at the beginning of the decade. And, not coincidentally, the theory behind those tests is the granddaddy of the current biological passport programs, and other anti-doping testing programs. So, it is possible to catch those who might be bent on blood doping, via hormones or the old-fashioned way. But the urine EPO test is tricky and problematic. And that’s something which has been known for quite some time.
But looking at the news coverage of this latest study, you’d never know that there was another way to detect EPO use. And that’s a shame, because in presenting the story, a crucial part has been left out. How it came to be left out of Gina Kolata’s story, I don’t know. She might have had the information in there, only to be cut by a copyeditor. Or, she might not have had the information there at all. Hard to say. But it’s a shame that the blood tests for EPO use were left out. Because if they’d been included, the story would be that one type of test doesn’t work, but those who would cheat can still be caught by another test.
Different presentations. Different meanings. Same overall story. That’s why it’s important that reporters be sure they’ve covered the whole of the story, and not just the obvious part.